A criminal ‘how-to?’

09/28/2013 6:00 PM

09/28/2013 6:00 PM

Earlier this week, The Star published a story about a scam being perpetrated on local businesses

. Some thieves have been taking a rather low-tech approach to credit card fraud.

The scam works like this: Some businesses use a transmitter that sends credit-card information to satellites, which then sends it to financial institutions. If there is no report back of problems with the card, the transaction is approved.

The thieves cover part of the transmitter with aluminum foil, which blocks the data from ever hitting the satellite. That means any warnings won’t be sent back to the store, and so criminals can use any card they wish, whether it’s valid or not.

The Star’s story centered on the police’s appeals for business owners to be wary. It ran with two photos distributed by the Kansas City Police Department and ended:

Police released photos of satellite dishes covered in foil from another city so that local businesses will know what to look for. Businesses owners or employees should call 911 if they suspect something. They should not remove the foil before police can process the crime scene.

One caller thought the whole thing was a terrible idea.

“I think it was irresponsible of The Star to publish details of the aluminum foil credit card ploy,” he said. “Amateur bad guys could decide to try it and use the article as a guide.”

This reminds me of the longtime debate over

The Anarchist Cookbook

. There are thoughtful arguments that say this information should be kept as arcane as possible.

I do think it’s an inarguable point that the more exposure these types of instruction get, the more likely it is that someone who might not seek them out actively will come across them and discover a previously-unexamined interest.

But on the other hand, The Star’s story was in direct response to a request from police, with the real target being people who own businesses using these transmitters. I can respect both sides on this one.

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